Category Archives: Photos

On Instagram, Ello, and Online Detritus

Screenshot 2014-11-03 11.29.49

 

Somewhat on a whim, I signed up for Instagram this weekend and instantly ‘got it.’  It was simple to sign up for on my iPhone, quick to integrate with Twitter and Flickr, and easy to work with. I’m not sure I’m ready to throw everything away and become an Instagramaddict but I certainly get why it’s so popular. It gives me a place for a photostream that integrates with all the other streams in my life, and I can probably get my head around square frames and fancy filters to work with it.

I don’t even know if it was completely a whim – I hadn’t thought about Instagram in a while, and then I passed one of the stablehands muttering “I can’t get a connection in this place, I just want to upload an Instagram!” the other week. It got me thinking about my current photo posting process, which is:

  1. Take the picture.
  2. Edit the picture in Photogene.
  3. Maybe run it through Noiseware or VSCOcam.
  4. Pick one of the 2-3 drafts thus generated.
  5. Go to Tweetbot.
  6. Pick one of the 2-3 drafts generated.
  7. Attempt to find something witty to say.
  8. Fail.
  9. Post it anyways.

It’s not that this is a bad flow, per se – it’s just not great, and it only puts the photo in once place.

Well, okay, it puts it in once place (Twitter) and another place (Camera Roll) where it goes to (Dropbox) and (Hard Drive 1) and (Hard Drive 2) and (Crashplan) but – online – it only puts it one place. Consequently, those folks who follow me on Flickr haven’t seen any of my photos for months because I’m lazy and just put them on Twitter.

Not lazy. Just human. You can only occupy so many spaces at once.

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I signed up for Ello during the Great Ello Rush of 2014 (I’m @btp over there, but I stopped posting) and enjoyed it for a few days before the UI drove me nuts. It wasn’t the layout, or the font, or even the unconventional business model – which still makes me raise an eyebrow, sorry – no, it was how hard it was to use. It was hard to compose on mobile, especially on the iPad. I lost a couple of story drafts just because the page refreshed the wrong way. UI elements would wig out and cover the entire screen. It doesn’t matter if a site is fledgling or not – if it’s not usable, why should I use it?  I don’t owe free web services anything – not even my attention.

Ello had my attention for a little while, and it seemed interesting – and then it seemed frustrating, so I stopped.

In a way, Ello reminded me of Zooomr, the ill-fated Flickr challenger from, what, 2005? 2006? It had different features than Flickr (oh to have geotagging be a differentiator!) but infrastructure woes and design issues sunk it, while Yahoo! sunk capital into Flickr and it scaled up into … whatever it is now.

I have trouble of thinking of Flickr as an online community. It’s a place to store hi-res photos online with some limited privacy controls, of sharing with family who begrudgingly log in because I’m the only one who uses it. Only recently has their online experience has sufficiently smooth to consider using them again, but I’ve long been left wondering if it serves any purpose in my life – which is sad, because there are over 5500+ public photos and a few thousand more family ones up there. That’s a lot of past history wrapped up in those sites.

I wrote, in a different online guise, about digital detritus and the desire to throw everything out and start over. That particular article was about characters in a video game, but it applies to our much larger online (and offline) lives too. It feels good to start over, to just walk away from the past so you can do something new.

But there’s also a good feeling of having built something over time. Sometimes it’s a community, sometimes a portfolio. Sometimes it’s walking in to a place and having people recognize you, or your kids, or your parents, and knowing that you’re part of something longer than just a moment.

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This has been a really strange year for me. Simplexity’s disappearance was only the beginning; I changed careers, walked away from my old gaming hobby. My parents are moving for the first time in 20 years. My car finally died and it’s time for me to get something different. Even my glasses, which I’ve had since 1995, finally broke. (I’m wandering around in Harry Potter frames from the late 80s trying to find replacements.) But by no means has it been a bad year – far from it, actually. I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. My attention is more focused on things which matter to me.

It’s like the whole year has been a series of events designed to make me really think about where I spend my attention. Giving it or hiring it out – both wind up being the same thing.

This started off being a simple post of hey, I’m on Instagram. But in writing it I realized that what I really want to say is, hey, I’m taking pictures again, because I really enjoy taking pictures. I’ve been posting them to Twitter but now I think I’ll post them a whole bunch of other places. Instagram makes it easy so I’ll use it for now.

So there you go.